Archive for April, 2011

Tibet’s “天路” (“Heaven Road”)

April 30th, 2011 6 comments

The video below is about the 青藏铁路 (Qingzang railway) connecting Tibet Autonomous Region’s Lhasa and Qinghai Province’s Xining. Much of the 2000km railway is an engineering marvel. One, for it’s 5000 meter elevation and rough terrain and another for where the tracks have to work on top of permafrosts (where the ice could melt depending on the time of the year). It opened in 2006 connecting the autonomous region to the rest of China’s railway networks. Singers 阿兰达瓦卓玛 (Alan Dawa Dolma, or simply known as Alan or 阿兰) and 韩红 (Han Hong) performed “天路” (“Heaven Road”) in tribute to this important project that Dr. Sun Yat-sen had first proposed around the turn of the century.
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Dalai Lama at UCLA

April 29th, 2011 52 comments

I spent over nine-years at UCLA and am (no surprise here) an avid alum supporter of the institution. Recently, I got wind that the Dalai Lama will be at UCLA next week.

A big part of the visit will be Dalai Lama’s participating in the symposium “Buddhism and Neuroscience: A Discussion on Attention, Mental Flexibility and Compassion,” with faculty and staff from UCLA’s Semel Institute.

Both UCLA and Harvard are my alma mater, and I have the highest respect for both.  But it is one thing for UCLA or Harvard to sponsor a controversial figure like the Dalai Lama, but quite another to sponsor controversial figures in the name of science.  Thus, if UCLA or Harvard were to sponsor Osma bin Laden – or even go back in time to sponsor Hitler, I’d be fine. It’s part of the process of pushing the boundary, if you will. But doing this dubiously in the name of science – this shocks my conscience.

Why cannot UCLA have picked Joe Shmoe, my neighbor, as the face of the symposium?  Do not the characteristics of attention, mental flexibility and compassion not exist in all of us?  Why does it have to be the Dalai Lama and why with such fanfare? Is this symposium about science or politics?

This symposium has gotten me thinking: is UCLA still a venerable institution of education and science, or has religion, politics, and cult personality bankrupted it? Should I be ashamed to be a UCLA Bruin? Is it time for me to sever all my financial ties with the institution, diverting my annual contributions to better causes elsewhere?

Ai Weiwei: fighting for justice or freedom of speech?

April 28th, 2011 44 comments

Negotiating the way through Ai Weiwei-land and the barrage of mainstream media (msm) and Web opinions, Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now,” on classic radio comes to mind:

Old friends are acting strange
they shake their heads
say I’ve changed
something’s lost, something’s gained.

Equanimity is a cop-out in this debate that pivots on black and white stereotypes of good and evil, freedom and oppression. You’ve got to pick a side, or be dissed for being wishy-washy.
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Posner, purveyor of ‘human rights,’ needs to remember he is not the customer

April 27th, 2011 14 comments

I was just reading this New York Times article, “Bleak Outlook for U.S.-China Talks on Human Rights,” and the reporter whines about lack of progress. Why can’t it keep it short, like the way this China Daily article does it? Honestly I don’t have anything constructive to say about the NYT version. Posner surely must know China is the customer in this case. If Posner could sweeten the deal with a billion USD or two, the customer might show more interest. The worst part of being a sales man is to have to make a pitch knowing the prospect has already decided not to buy.

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Tsinghua University Professor Yan Xuetong: “How Assertive Should a Great Power Be?”

April 25th, 2011 29 comments

Yan Xuetong is professor of political science and dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He is the author of “Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power.” His new book became available on April 3, 2011 and can be ordered through places like Amazon. Below is an Op-Ed he authored for the New York Times, titled, “How Assertive Should a Great Power Be?” Prof. Yan is from the camp in China favoring more active political engagements and taking on more international responsibilities.

Published: March 31, 2011

BEIJING — Since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Chinese analysts have been debating whether China should take on more international responsibility. Two opposite schools of thought have emerged within China.
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Categories: Opinion, politics Tags:

How to win the hearts and minds of 1.3 billion Chinese people

April 24th, 2011 5 comments

Serenade Chairman Mao and pay homage to the Communist Party as Nigerian born Uwechue Emmanuel (in Chinese, 郝歌 (Hao Ge)) managed to do on CCTV through popular Chinese song, “草原上升起不落的太阳.” Chinese people love their motherland and harmony. Intonation must be impeccable. Race is irrelevant.

( version here)

A bit more texture in my recent trip to China

April 22nd, 2011 8 comments

This is the last sequence of photos I will be sharing to hopefully give a bit more texture about China. My family traveled to Guilin and Beijing for a bit over two weeks. We really enjoyed ourselves and were impressed with the pace of changes, especially in Beijing. I took the photo below while on the Li River heading towards Yangshuo. I was really wishing for a sunny day, but the outline of the surrounding mountains through the mist made that trip surreal.

On the Li River towards Yangshuo

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West Considers History Amnesia Pill Law

April 21st, 2011 12 comments

In the Spirit of stretching political issues to the ridiculous, such as, I bring the doom and gloom news that while China is banning the still non-existent technology of time travel, the West is considering banning history or any memory of it, especially those periods not appealing to any citizens.

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“China bans time travel”

April 19th, 2011 10 comments

No kidding!  I am still deciding whether this is funny.  Google search this phrase, “China bans time travel,” and it will yield the following (results around April 19, 2011 22:50pm PST):

Chinese censors attack ‘frivolous’ time travel dramas

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Imagine your obnoxious neighbor giving you an “F” grade for parenting

April 19th, 2011 12 comments

Imagine your obnoxious neighbor giving you an “F” grade for parenting. He is the richest and has the neighborhood’s gangsters loyal to him. What do you do? He has even molested some children in your neighborhood.

There is a reason why the annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” by the United States is formulated by the Department of State. It is a foreign policy instrument. If the U.S. truly cares about human rights, the country would be providing basic drugs to the poorest nations and irradicate easily curable diseases around the globe. It would be giving away food. It would not be killing innocent Iraqi and Afghani children.
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Great Wall, Bird Nest, and Water Cube

April 17th, 2011 5 comments

We took a day tour yesterday visiting the Great Wall at Badaling and then to the Olympics compound. In between, we’d also stopped by a wax museum featuring the Ming Dynasty period. While learning about the Ming, I noticed many important historic events taking place in and around Beijing. I really wished I had brushed up on my Chinese history before roaming around.

National Aquatics Center (aka Water Cube)

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An evening at Beijing’s Qianmen Dajie

April 15th, 2011 1 comment

Qianmen Gate

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Categories: culture, Photos Tags: , ,

Beijing Wangfujing under blue skies

April 14th, 2011 3 comments

(Click image to launch slideshow)

Categories: Photos Tags: ,

A hint of the European invaders and looters in Forbidden City

April 13th, 2011 43 comments

Western travelers will likely wonder why these gold platings were scraped off in water vessels throughout Forbidden City. This is the last visible hint in Forbidden City that still remains today of the European invaders.

Gold scraped off by invaders

The Yuanmingyuan (another location) remains in complete ruins as a reminder to the Chinese people. Each time some auction house in the West sells some Chinese relics for some hundreds of millions of USD also reminds me of these robbers. Below is a quote from Victor Hugo of the atrocity:

Two robbers breaking into a museum, devastating, looting and burning, leaving laughing hand-in-hand with their bags full of treasures; one of the robbers is called France and the other Britain.

Visitors to Forbidden City

April 13th, 2011 3 comments

Obvioulsy, Forbidden City requires no introduction. My family spent the day there today. For now, I’d simply like to share photos I took of some visitors there. I have collected more QQ numbers, including from the parents of the two boys below. They are from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province. Couple of my college friends were from that area as well. I was glad to see many Chinese citizens visiting Beijing for the first time. In general, they are doing some sort of business and things are booming. The country is moving ‘up,’ and that is what I see in the Chinese travelers.

Two boys busy playing inside the Forbidden City

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Gmail, respect jurisdiction or accept blockage

April 12th, 2011 15 comments

Over the past week and a half, I have been accessing my Gmail account from within China at various places.  Since Google insinuated the service being interfered with by the Chinese government, I thought I report first hand what I experienced.  While in Guilin, I only could connect couple of times in hotels without resorting to using VPN.  The Gmail’s login doesn’t show up or following entering username and password, the connection times out.  While at a relative’s home, access to Gmail was without any problem. While in Beijing, I have not had any problems either.

While a user of Gmail, I still honestly feel the Chinese government should block Gmail if Google does not respect China’s jurisdiction over users from within Chinese borders when using the service. Let’s say, there are two terrorists plotting to blow up some building or bridge in China. They used Gmail to coordinate their attack. If Google does not comply with Chinese courts in turning over information on these terrorists, then I think it is very appropriate for the Chinese government to block the service from within China altogether.
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Categories: Opinion, technology Tags: ,

Guilin culinary delights

April 12th, 2011 7 comments

If you visit China and end up eating at an average or below average restaurant, pretend the kitchen doesn’t exist. Do not venture back there. However, I was really happy to see this during lunch today. The restaurant exposes the kitchen to the full view of their patrons. I was told this restaurant chain is so popular, it has eight locations in Guilin.

Restaurant kitchen in Guilin

Restaurant kitchen in Guilin

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Categories: culture, Photos Tags: ,

A night cruise in Guilin

April 11th, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday we took a boat cruise from the Li River and meandered into a bunch of lakes in Guilin. The night scene is pretty amazing.  This tour is primary geared towards Chinese travelers.  Below are the riyue ta (sun-moon pagodas). Our hotel is just a block away.

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龙信明 Blog: “Ai Weiwei – ‘China’s Conscience’ And Another Dissident Bites the Dust”

April 10th, 2011 78 comments

The following article is sourced from the 龙信明 Blog.

Ai Weiwei – “China’s Conscience”
And Another Dissident Bites the Dust

The Western media are once again having a field day about the detention of yet another “dissident”, this time the artist Ai Weiwei.
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Faces of Guilin

April 9th, 2011 3 comments

Today, we spent the whole day at Guilin’s Qixing Gongyuan (Seven Star Park). Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited this park and gave a speech on environmentalism there. Guilin is a Tier 2 city in southwestern China where growth is primarily driven by tourism. Locals and tourists from other parts of China frequent the park. In this post, I will be showing their faces.

The three year-old girl in the photo below left a very strong impression on me. Her parents operate some rides in the kid area of the park. All the workers in that area know and take turns watching her with her parents. She spends her Saturdays there enjoying kid rides for free.

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Categories: General, Photos Tags: ,

Conversation with a Chinese auto-worker on fighting graft

April 7th, 2011 14 comments

While taking a river boat cruise from Guilin down to Yangshuo yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow traveler; in fact, a Chinese auto-worker who is from Nanjing.  I asked him about Nanjing’s development, expecting him to tell me about the city’s robust growth as in other tier 1 cities.  Bear in mind that Nanjing was a capital city in China’s past, so there is a level of expectation that the city excels given this history.
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Categories: Analysis, Opinion, politics Tags:

An evening at Zhang Yimou’s folk musical, “Impression Liu Sanjie”

April 7th, 2011 2 comments

Yesterday I had the good fortune of spending the evening at Zhang Yimou’s folk musical, “Impression Liu Sanjie.” The stage itself is on the Li River in Yangshuo with mountains in the backdrop. The visuals are breath-taking. If you are familiar with Zhang Yimou’s movies, you might know that the director is also famous for his use of color. It took 600+ performers to fill this massive “stage.” I don’t have much time to fill you in on the background at the moment, but would like to share with you some images I took during the show.

Zhang Yimou's folk musical, "Impression Liu Sanjie"

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清明节 (Qingming Festival), paying respect to the ancestors

April 5th, 2011 7 comments

April 5th is officially 清明节 (Qingming Festival). It is a Chinese tradition to pay respect to ancestors and make symbolic offerings so they have a better after-life. This tradition is accompanied by “扫墓” or sweeping of the tomb. Today, I was able to witness this tradition as practiced in Guilin with my wife’s side of the family.

Family in Guilin buying offerings to 扫墓 (Saomu)

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All happy on the Wangfujing front

April 3rd, 2011 15 comments

As I was strolling through Wangfujing today, I couldn’t help but recall reading the tense “crack downs” narrated in the Western media over a possible Jasmine Revolution in China. Honestly, I was hoping to snap a few shots of some BBC journalist lurking around, but they were nowhere to be seen. I suppose they have finally understood that China does not like them messing around.

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2009 World Military Budgets

April 2nd, 2011 19 comments

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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